Liberty’s Second Blind Date with a Library Salesman
(an outtake from Released by Amber Polo)
The next morning, as Liberty came out of Belle’s office and literally bumped into Taxi, the library’s quirky Head of Circulation, notorious for his outrageous bowling shirts.
“You look in shock,” he observed, followed her to the empty staff lounge, and watched her make a cup of Lily’s lavender tea. “What has Belle done now?”
Liberty sat and stared blankly at the wall. “She’s arranged for me to give a talk at the Southern Central Ohio Assistant Public Librarians quarterly meeting. I have no time for that. I have to plan the conversion.”
“But that’s good. Right?”
“Well, yes. A SCOAPLA talk would look good on my resume. If I live through it.”
“What’s your topic?”
“How I worked with the architects to remodel this building.”
“Easy. You’re the expert.”
“I’ve never given a formal paper.”
“No problem,” Taxi reassured her. “I’ve spoken at lots of meetings. I gave a paper in Athens when I accepted the award for my translation of Virgil’s Aeneid.”
“I forget you’re a Greek scholar.”
“Just a Greek geek. But this job is more fun. Presenting a paper on this building is no problem. Cecil, the AV librarian, is an amateur art photographer. He can make slides from architectural drawings. Let him take photos of the completed library filled with attractive patrons. Add photos of what the building looked like before. He’ll put the whole thing together in a PowerPoint presentation or video. Hey, we could put it up on OurTube.”
“But I’ll have to speak. In front of all those people.”
“Make a handout.”
She nodded. “Librarians do love handouts.”
“Show pictures. Follow the handout. Then ask for questions. You know every inch of this building and supervised every step of the remodeling of an academy into this cool library.”
“Every inch of the building,” Liberty’s voice dropped as she thought of about the sub-basements. A part of her still wanted the secret downstairs and dog-shifter librarians to be a dream. Maybe the library staff was right. She had no life. Her blind date with Rolf had been a disaster, but she’d promised Bliss she’d go on three dates. But what if Number Two and Three were as bad as Rolf?
“You can do it,” Taxi’s voice brought her back.
“Thanks. I’ll talk to Cecil.” She walked to the AV area.
Cecil stacked microfilm reels into towers for re-filing. “I wish the Shipsfeather Chronicle was available online or at least indexed. But who would be interested in the history of this boring little town? I need room for vintage avant-garde films. I’d like to put on a black comedy film festival next year.”
“Don’t you think that’s a little specialized for our clientele?”
Cecil looked down his nose. “Perhaps you’re right. They’re more Shaggy Dog aficionados. Of course, when I was hired as AV Librarian I was under the impression I would be doing creative work.”
“Speaking of creative, can you put together a documentary on the building renovation?”
Cecil’s mouth dropped. “A real documentary? I could use the new digital camcorder.”
“Unless you think it’s too difficult, or too boring, or if you’re too busy.”
“Can you meet tomorrow morning? I’ll lay out my storyboard ideas.”
Liberty smiled knowing Cecil’s creativity would save her and walked to the Children’s Room where Bliss pinned book covers to a bulletin board.
Bliss grumbled. “Julianna won’t approve my teen program idea. I think remote viewing would be a very popular topic.”
“Who would want a town full of teenage spies?” Liberty paused. “Belle informed me Bobbie Lee, our sales rep for supplies, would drive me to Cincinnati for the SCOAPL meeting. Is Belle in on this too? Does ‘take me’ mean a date?”
Bliss called up the spreadsheet on her computer, but immediately minimized it so Liberty couldn’t read the tiny print.
All Liberty saw was a dozen lines with lots of columns. “Where did these names come from?”
Bliss ignored her and squinted at the list. “You like Bobbie Lee?”
“Sure. He’s nice and he’s really helping with the RFID conversion. But I am not interested in him. I think he likes Belle.”
“How do you know you two won’t hit it off? Belle has so many boyfriends.”
“Belle is dating? She just moved here.”
“She has a guy she sees in town and another in Columbus. The Columbus one is a lawyer or a politician. The guy here is a doctor.”
Liberty wrinkled her nose. “Maybe it’s her French accent?”
Bliss grinned. “Maybe it’s because she has a life.”
Maybe it’s because Liberty was doing all the work of running the library. She leaned closer to the screen.
Bliss closed the program. “This is a secure double password protected file. I can tell you Bobbie is forty-five, divorced, with no child support payments. Financial and criminal checks came back clean. Interviews with three ex-wives, all librarians he met at conferences, confirm the reason for divorces was his constant traveling.”
“Everyone says he’s a nice guy. Kind of a workaholic. That got him a high spot on the list. We thought you’d appreciate that.”
Liberty shook her head. “What in Melville’s name do I need a date with—”
Bliss’s phone rang and she answered. “Yes, Liberty’s here.” She handed Liberty the phone, singing softly, “Bobbie Lee. Bobbie Lee, oh, oh, Bobbie Lee.”
Liberty took the receiver as if it were hot.
Bliss pretended to sort through a stack of picture books while Liberty replied in “yeses” and “noes” and ended with a polite goodbye.
Bliss giggled. “So, what did he say? Tell me.”
“Bobbie said he’d pick me up here on Saturday morning in time to drive to Athens for registration. He’ll help me set up the presentation. The program will be over at five. He asked me to have dinner at the inn in Union.”
“That’s a nice place. Sounds like a perfect blind date. And he’s very good looking.” Bliss grinned. “Maybe I should add matchmaking to my resume.”
The entire library’s Saturday staff hovered near the circulation desk when Bobbie Lee walked into the library. Bobbie, in a summer weight blue suit with complementing shirt and tie, looked at Taxi’s striped Western bowling shirt with white nylon fringe that swung when he lifted a stack of books onto a cart. “I’m looking for Liberty, cowboy.”
Taxi looked towards the stairs. “Here she comes, now.”
Julianna and Cecil watched and Bliss whispered, “This is so romantic. I hope they are
Liberty wore a gray suit and black heels, but the power outfit lost the effect behind the load of handouts, laptop, and briefcase she carried.
Bobbie moved to help, like a quarterback going for the ball.
“That man looks as yummy as a new box of books,” Bliss whispered. “He played college ball and pro for one season before he hurt his knee. It’s in the database.”
Lily came up to the desk with the latest organic gardening book from the New Books shelf. “Looks like Bobbie licked the weight and drinking problem after he left that big library supplier.”
“You know him?” Taxi asked the retired librarian.
“Everyone in the library industry knows Bobbie. One of the nicest men in the business and very good looking.” She watched Bobbie follow Liberty out the door.
As soon as Bobbie loaded the box into his hybrid SUV, Liberty asked, “So Bobbie, what do you sell to libraries besides RFID tags?”
He settled in the driver’s seat and flashed Liberty a smile as big as a race car driver on a Coke machine. “I handle green alternative products. My new line is aromatherapy. You pump special scents into different areas for the effect you want. ‘Read-a-book Scent’ is also popular with parents who buy direct from www.greenlibraries.com.”
“Library aromatherapy? Does it work?”
He pulled out of the library’s parking lot and headed for the highway. “Sure. You use relaxing scents in places where you want calm patrons. Throw something more exciting into lounge areas to discourage sleeping. Squirt a little libido-reducing scent near the public use computers and in the young adult room.”
“Is that legal?”
“I can show you results of a test case in California. I also have hemp book bags, recyclable library cards, and bamboo shelving. The latest big ticket item is complete library meditation rooms.”
His infectious laugh filled the SUV and Liberty settled back to enjoy the ride. Bobbie was charming and attractive. She’d enjoyed working with him on the library’s conversion project and if today’s trip fulfilled Blind Date Number Two, it would be painless.
At the conference site, Bobbie helped Liberty set up her computer before he went into the exhibit hall to unpack his own display. When her presentation was ready, she went to find him. The exhibits didn’t open for a half hour, but already women flocked around Bobbie’s table.
He gestured to Liberty to come through the crowd and introduced her to the most influential women in SCOAPL. When he told them not to miss Liberty’s “Remodeling Libraries” session, they marked their programs.
A few minutes to ten Bobbie appeared in the back of her seminar room and checked out the projector one more time, then passed out her handouts.
Liberty felt secure. She’d insisted Cecil cut some of his artier shots, but the final result was excellent. The film began with a photo montage of the building before renovation. Next came the original architectural drawing and the young architects’ plans. A walk-through showed the completed library with patrons enjoying the building.
At the end of her presentation, she announced the building was a finalist in a national public buildings architectural contest and segued right into the Q and A. Bobbie led the applause and told her she was a huge success.
Flattered and happy, everywhere Liberty went, librarians asked about her library. They encouraged Shipsfeather to host the Spring meeting so they could see the building. At lunch people literally fought to sit at her table. Between sessions, she wandered the exhibit hall and watched Bobbie demonstrate green products to entranced librarians. At the end, Bobbie, acting like her public relations agent, introduced her to everyone. She’d never had this much fun at a conference.
By the time she tossed her things into Bobbie’s SUV, not one handout was left and she’d received requests to present her program at five regional conferences, a national convention in San Antonio, and encouragement to write up the presentation for submission to a respected library management journal. She even enjoyed the jealous glares from some very well-known librarians when Bobbie ushered her out of the hall.
“Ready for a relaxing dinner?” he asked as he drove towards Union.
“Absolutely! Thanks for a great day. I couldn’t have done it without you.”
“You’d have done just fine.”
The red-brick inn was as charming as the website pictures. Bobbie had reserved the best table and the owner greeted him personally.
“I’ve brought lots of customers here. I once had a great expense account. Green Libraries’ entertainment budget is zero. But it’s okay. After I lost my last job and got served papers for my third divorce, I made some changes.”
He discussed the wine list with the waiter and suggested Liberty might like a light red. When Liberty nodded, he ordered one glass and a club soda. “I’m a non-drinking vegetarian and I spend my nights in the hotel workout room.”
“You look great.”
“Thanks. I’m not back to my playing weight, but I feel good. My old boss offered me a job better than the one I had when he fired me. But I like Green Libraries. The library business can be a dog eat dog world.”
Their drinks came and he toasted her success. Liberty’s wine went down smoothly and she gained courage. “Bobbie, why did you agree to take me to dinner? You certainly didn’t need a blind date.”
His charming, confident manner disintegrated and he lowered his head shyly. “I did it as a favor to Belle. But I enjoyed helping you.”
“You could have said no.” A puppy dog expression softened his face. He really liked Belle. Bobbie was great, but she wasn’t attracted to the gorgeous ex-athlete. Only one more blind date to go. Her chocolate pie and coffee arrived along with Bobbie’s green tea and sorbet. “Thank you for dinner. This is the best blind date I’ve ever had.”